Frombork, Poland is one of those towns that seem quiet and sleepy (and a bit random) at first but eventually turn out to be a very interesting destination. Located in the very north of Poland, very close to the border with Russia (Kaliningrad region), Frombork is known mostly as the resting place for the world-famous 16th-century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus who has spent over 30 years there.
But the town offers so many attractions that it will keep you busy for a few solid hours. Even if it is a bit away from the main places to visit in Poland, Frombork is definitely worth a little detour.
I’ve visited Frombork twice, first when I was a teenager (so I didn’t remember much really) and recently. This latest trip to Frombork made me fully appreciate the place and even if the weather was gloomy I couldn’t help but fell for the town. Here is my guide to visiting Frombork.
Table of contents
How to get to Frombork
Frombork, a small town of around 2,5 thousand inhabitants, is located in the very north of Poland (the border with Russia is less than 15 km away), at the shore of Vistula Lagoon on the Baltic Sea. The nearest bigger town is Elbląg, 30 km away.
The easiest way to get to Frombork by public transport is via Elblag (which is worth stopping in too). There are a few bus connections per day between Elblag and Frombork, the journey takes around 40 minutes. You can find the bus schedule here.
You can also visit Frombork with a tour from Gdansk – click here for details.
A brief history of Frombork
Frombork was first mentioned in 1278 – a few years later the cathedral in nearby Braniewo burnt down and the local bishop of Warmia decided to move the Warmia Chapter to Frombork. The original German name of the town (the area was under the Teutonic Order rule then) – “Frauenburg” – means it is dedicated to Virgin Mary.
For centuries Frombork developed as in fact two separate entities – the Cathedral Hill and the town around – they got united only in 1926.
Since Frombork has been one of the most popular religious, cultural, and educational centers in the region, it attracted numerous wise people, the most famous one was of course astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
Due to its importance, Frombork was also often targeted by various troops and changed its belongingness a few times, over the centuries it was part of Prussia, Poland, or even Sweden.
After World War 2 Frombork returned to Poland but 80% of the town was destroyed and it didn’t fully regain its former grandness. Still, it’s a great place to visit and learn more about the past.
What to see in Frombork
The biggest attraction of Frombork, towering about the town and surrounding area, is Cathedral Hill. It might look like the castle but it is not – the cathedral is just well fortified.
The official name of Frombork Cathedral is Archcathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Andrew and it was built in the 14th century (with further additions, like spires from the 16th century). This is one of the most spectacular churches you can see in Poland, it impresses both outside and inside with its Gothic architecture.
The interior is a real masterpiece with its richly decorated altars, chapels, and epitaphs. You will surely spend a bit of your time admiring all the beauty around you.
Be sure to take a look at the Baroque organs from the 17th century. If you are lucky you might also attend a concert of the organ music in the cathedral and I can’t recommend it enough, it was my highlight of visiting Frombork.
Hidden in the right back corner of the cathedral is the modest grave of Nicolaus Copernicus. Since he was a canon in the cathedral he had a right to be buried here after his death in 1543.
However, over the centuries many more people laid down for their final rest under the cathedral and the destruction of the place during the Polish-Swedish wars and then World War 2 made recognizing the remnants impossible. Only recently, in 2008, it was confirmed by DNA tests of the hair found on the book that it was really him who was buried in the Frombork Cathedral.
Copernicus’s remnants were laid underground again in 2010, this time with honors and so today you can pay your respect to the great astronomer.
Besides the cathedral itself, there are more interesting places you should see on Cathedral Hill, the place is also perfect for a small wander around.
Be sure to climb the Radziejowski Tower from the 15th century – not only it is an interesting Gothic building with Foucault’s pendulum inside, but the view from the top is simply beautiful. You can admire the stunning cathedral as well as the town and surrounding area, with Vistula Lagoon and rolling hills of the Warmia region.
Inside the tower, you can also visit the planetarium and watch the show.
Just outside Cathedral Hill, across the street from Nicolaus Copernicus’s monument, you can find another tower – the Water Tower from the 16th century. It is another great viewpoint of Frombork, this time you admire the impressive vista of Cathedral Hill in its full glory.
Inside the Water Tower, you can also find a nice cafe which is a perfect stop during your Frombork sightseeing.
The rest of the town is really pleasant too. You can go for a walk along the waterside and see a small harbor, you can admire the beautiful mosaic (with the astronomical motif, of course) on the former train station’s building or you can sit next to Copernicus on his bench on the main square.
There are also a few museums if you would like to visit those – the one dedicated to Copernicus or the Museum of History of Medicine seem to be interesting.
However, the building that intrigued me the most, was the former Gothic church of St. Nicolas. Originally from the 15th century, it burned down a few times over the years, and apparently, World War 2 left it so destroyed that only the construction was fairly intact.
Therefore, after yet another reconstruction, the building was used as the town’s boiler. When looking at the church from the Radziejowski Tower you can clearly see how scorched the rooftop is. I was really surprised with using the former church’s building for another purpose than religion since that’s not very common in Poland.
But I still liked the idea of reusing the property, I just wish it was possible to see the interior too. The boiler closed down a few years ago and now the building seems to be abandoned.
Final thoughts on visiting Frombork
Even if Frombork is a really small town and you can easily walk everywhere in a few minutes only, the number of interesting attractions can be really surprising. After all, this used to be a really important place and it’s so great to learn more about the former glory and especially about Nicolaus Copernicus’s life there (his most important book “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) was written when he lived in Frombork).
I really enjoyed visiting Frombork and I think it’s one of the most fascinating places in north Poland.
Just one last tip – if you visit in the summertime try to be here in the morning. Around 11 am you can expect a sudden arrival of many more tourists as that’s when the tours from Krynica Morska – a popular holiday town across Vistula Lagoon – arrive.
Where to go next
Northern Poland must be one of the most underrated parts of my country and I’m discovering it only now as well. And I’m enchanted!
When you visit Frombork you can continue either to Elblag (with the boat cruise on Elblag Canal) and further to splendid Malbork Castle and amazing Gdansk, or to the Warmia region with its rolling hills and Gothic architecture. This is also a perfect area to relax if you would like to slow down and enjoy the nature.
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